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Wednesday 17 June 2020

In conversation with Julia van den Bosch

Continuing our conversation with artists featuring in our Beyond the Frame exhibition, this week we talk to Julia van den Bosch.

Julia gives us an insight into her early years and how the Kent countryside and her family home inspired her love of nature. She now translates this into her artwork by making multi layered, textural collages filled with delicate intricacies combined with fine embroidery which results in the viewer feeling that the images are totally natural.

Beneath the Trees is very intriguing and unique to the exhibition – from a distance you will feel that you could pick the fungi and as you approach the work you will be totally mesmerised by the beautiful textures, threads and intricacy of the artwork.

Portrait photo of artist Julia van den Bosch

Thinking back to your early years and where you lived, were you influenced then by nature and art?

I was very lucky to live in the weald of Kent with its beautiful countryside.  This meant bluebell woods and primroses in the spring and hand rearing lambs and baby calves when needed. Then, later on in the year, helping with apple picking and building haystacks and of course winter tobogganing  We had a beautiful country garden and a variety of pets ranging from a pony and rescue donkey, chickens and pigs, through to cats and dogs and finally to a tortoise, so there was an abundance of nature.

It was great way to grow up and art was all around me both in the home and in the seasons. I was very fortunate to have a mother who taught me her same keen appreciation of nature in all its forms, however chaotic, and this has stayed with me throughout my life.

Did you always aspire to be an artist, where did you study art and what made you choose the textile route?

I was drawn originally to collage at a very young age.  The feeling I wanted to ‘build’ a work being the motivator.  Then followed the fine art route through various mentors, but always feeling the need for the work to be more three dimensional.  My home is filled with textiles mostly from China, India and early European and English embroidery, so it became the natural path for me to work in textiles myself as it was something that had always felt ‘magical’ to me.

I want my work to capture the essence of the subject matter and to make it come ‘alive’ by using textural materials and hand stitch. All the minute detail and sumptuous textures and colours of nature lend themselves so well to their translation into embroidery.  I use photography and watercolour painting, in addition to botanical art techniques to form the background for my work.  This background is then overlaid with hand embroidery and appliqué which allows the artwork to become multi-layered with rich texture and thread. Hand stitch allows one to enter – into a real understanding of the subject matter and allows time for intent and intuition to guide the hand and to conjure.

Working ‘shamanically’ my wish is to achieve both visceral and emotional responses and I do want to translate the physiological benefit – the peace and healing and wonder – that nature in all its forms brings to the psyche. Something that, in-itself is becoming much more recognised as valuable.

What inspired you to choose Among the Trees print from the Richmond Borough Collection to base your submission on?

I found the brief for Beyond the Frame to be fascinating – there was such a range of possibilities the problem was what to choose: artifacts, photos, oil painting, water colours, prints.  The range of subject matter was immense and the idea of taking work Beyond the Frame inspirational. I chose Sasa Marinkov’s work Among the Trees because I love silver birch trees. Sasa’s mark making instantly drew my eye, the simplicity of the images which are in fact anything but simple when looked at closely. The tiny detail in every considered mark in her depiction of the trees.  The strong shapes and the monochrome palette she used.

All of these things conspired to make me wish to go Beyond the Frame of Among the Trees and show the contrast of what was happening – the riotous tangle in the tracery of undergrowth – Beneath the Trees. It was a joy to create all the curious shapes and forms of leaf, lichen, loam and fungi. The work took over and led me on its own path of discovery.

Collage artwork involving embroidery depicting woodland scene
Beneath the Trees by Julia van den Bosch

Do you have a particular artist or piece of work that you admire?

I remember going to a Chagall retrospective at the Royal Academy.  His work started out so full of colour and imagery and dreams and delight, but then as the time he was living in grew darker so did his work. But in the final room of the exhibition, the work which he did in his old age exploded back into life again and it was if the whole room glowed with affirmations which was a wonderful experience.  He came back in his 90s to the ‘sky and the stars that allowed him to discover the meaning of life’.

I also love Redon for his dream life and I very much admire David Hockney’s opera sets which are so full of colour and imagery. And, of course, no textile artist could fail to be inspired by Matisse and the richness of his work.

Do you have a favourite piece of your artwork and what memories does it invoke? 

As a child I used to love lying among grasses, with the grasses tickling as I looked up at the sky.  A few years ago, I was walking across Ham lands and quite suddenly discovered these amazing seed-heads belonging to the Noonflower or Goatsbeard.  Their tiny little yellow flowers had suddenly burst into huge clouds of intricately detailed seed-heads.  I spent the whole day photographing them as I wanted to try to capture their delicacy before they disappeared. When I was working on the pieces – Noonflower and Grasslands – it took me back to those childhood days.

The work Noonflower came from my fascination with the seed-head.  Grasslands was a work I was commissioned for, to present to Sir David Attenborough for the occasion of his 88th birthday.

Grasslands by Julia van den Bosch, 40cm x 50cm, photography, watercolour painting, overlaid with hand embroidery and appliqué

What currently inspires you and your work?

When you choose to work with nature and the intricacies and vagaries of nature, the inspiration is never ending. My work is perhaps focusing on the smaller details of plant life – at present my aim is still to try to convey and bring to life each new discovery in its richness and texture and detail of design. Whether it is leaf, flower or seed-head the inspiration is always there.

Are you working on any new exciting projects during ‘lockdown’ and has this time changed your creativeness in anyway?

I am finding, as I know many people are, that it is very difficult to actually get down to work!  However, deadlines are a great motivator, so having this conversation with you was a good way to shake off the cobwebs.

I am looking for new ways to connect and communicate in lockdown, as are all the artistic community and this obviously means becoming much more technically minded re. the internet, so I am a work in progress in that respect.  One idea is perhaps trying to set up Zoom workshops.

And do you have any forthcoming exhibitions planned?

I am a member of the textile group Prism. As we can’t hold the actual exhibition which would have been opening on May 12 at the Art Pavilion in Mile End, we are holding a virtual festival instead.  This will run through to July 31. As well as a virtual tour of the exhibition ‘In search of (im)possibilities’, it will involve, talks, workshops and interviews, all online, so it should be a very interesting and new way of doing things.

The actual Prism exhibition will be held next year at the Art Pavilion on the same dates as this year, all being well! This will of course allow more time to add to works already shown.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

I have always hoped that I could transmit ‘magic’ and make things come alive. This hope still, continues and to paraphrase from another article, today’s media features increasing reports about the mental and emotional benefits of experiencing nature.  My wish is to give viewers of my work the sense they are witnessing the same natural magic I see. Regardless of the setting in which they view the work, they can have that same experience.  My work is done with intent – I use three, dimensional stitching techniques to try to make the work come ‘alive’ and I have also recently started embedding crystals and other natural ‘energies’ into my work to that aim.  I really hope to transmit the essence of what I see into my work.

So, my hope and my dreams are that this is not just an aspiration but a successful reality.

You can see more of Julia’s work by visiting her website here.

The entire Richmond Borough Art Collection is also available to view online at the link here, or alternatively through our main navigation bar.